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Joe Satriani: Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards

Technical expertise from the guitarists’ guitarist.

It can’t be easy being the greatest guitarist in the world. The temptation to add that extra flash and flurry to everything must be awful strong.

Thankfully, as he proved yet again with his work in last year’s supergroup, Chickenfoot, Joe Satriani is that rare thing: an extraordinarily gifted guitar soloist who actually knows the meaning of the words ‘taste’ and ‘restraint’.

Recorded in the same studio (Skywalker Sound) as the Chickenfoot album, Satriani now proves it all over again with his latest solo album: the mouthful title aside, his best since his earliest, most lightning-charged forays into instrumental superstardom in the 1980s. So while we get the kind of technical virtuosity unknown outside the realm of jazz-rock – check that funky wah-wah propelling the nicely arpeggiated keyboards cooking away beneath Joe’s deliberately revved-up lead on Dream Song – we also get the subtle phrasing, classy melodies and just plain sexy guitar tones of superior Satch groovers like Pyrrhic Victoria (Chickenfoot meets Hendrix) and perhaps the album’s best moment, the articulate and expressive blues of Littleworth Lane.

Other delights follow – the bubbling tablas on The Golden Room; the spacey, guitar-less intro to Wormhole Wizards – and like all the best Satch albums, repeat plays reap huge rewards. Magic.